Sharks prop Braden Hamlin-Uele is keen to get reacquainted with his one-time Junior Kiwis room-mate Addin Fonua-Blake for a battle of the giants in Saturday's elimination final against Manly.
Hamlin-Uele said the pair shared living quarters when they represented the New Zealand under-20s in 2014 - beating Australia 15-14 in a fiery match at Mt Smart Stadium - and still keep in occasional contact.
"Addin is a quality player, he's a big unit. We played junior Kiwis back in the day together and there's a lot of battles there," Hamlin-Uele said.
"I've always wanted to be able to get over my opposite number, so whatever happens, happens in the game. I'm sure he'll want to do the same to me.
"I'm sure there will be a few sentences thrown out there in the game. I'm looking forward to it."
Hamlin-Uele, 24, and Fonua-Blake, 23, have enjoyed breakout seasons in 2019, the latter establishing himself among the competition's premier props.
But Hamlin-Uele saw the Tongan international's potential well before he became an NRL regular. They locked horns in the NYC when Hamlin-Uele was a Rooster and Fonua-Blake a Dragon.
"You always knew that he had the talent and the skill to do it," Hamlin-Uele said.
"Manly seems like a good fit for him. He's got a few of the Tongan boys with him and he just looks happy. That's the main thing for anyone in footy. I'm looking forward to the contest."
Match: Sea Eagles v Sharks
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Lottoland, Sydney
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
Fonua-Blake may need to punch out more minutes than usual with the Sea Eagles struggling for depth in the forwards.
With regular front-row partner Martin Taupau suspended, Fonua-Blake will start alongside second-gamer Sean Keppie.
Taniela Paseka's knee issue means Toafofoa Sipley is set to return from an ACL injury, with Lloyd Perrett and the uncapped Haumole Olakau'atu the other big men named on the bench and Tony Williams is the 'smokey' in jersey No.21.
However, Hamlin-Uele said he isn't focusing on the opposition team sheet.
"I don't really take too much notice of the people they've got out. They're a quality team over the park," he said.
"Whoever they bring, we'll just have to be at our best. I'm sure if we're at our best it'll be tough for them to stop us. Hopefully us 'benchies' can get on and do what we've been doing all year."
After entering this season with two NRL games to his name and not expecting to play many more, Hamlin-Uele is elated to be preparing for a maiden finals encounter.
"It's surreal. I didn't think I was going to be here at all," he said.
"It's a new comp, really, and everything that's happened the last few weeks is gone. I'm looking forward to it. My first taste of finals footy as a player, so I'm ready to go.
"The biggest dream is to go all the way and win the trophy but right now we're focused on Manly and we'll see what happens from there."
While his powerful performances have drawn comparisons to high-profile team-mate Andrew Fifita, Hamlin-Uele wants to make his own mark.
"I try not to look at it too much. I try to bring my own game. He's Andrew Fifita; I'm trying to be Braden Hamlin-Uele," he said.
"He's definitely a quality player and I watched him and looked up to him when I was younger.
"But now that I'm here, I just try to be the best that I can be and not the best version of someone else."